I know, I know: the world needs another mass combat system like [insert something abundant and cliched here]. Nonetheless, the systems muse wants what the systems muse wants. This concept draws a lot of inspiration from the Song of Ice and Fire RPG battle system and a system posted on squaremans.com sometime between his latest archive purge and whenever archive.org stopped updated his site (so I can’t link to it presently).

Core Concept

Battle takes place in rounds of one minute and in spaces of 50 feet. I’m inclined to use hexes for mass combat, but it probably works fine in a square grid.

Units are represented by their average member, with some additional rules. If you have an infantry unit of 2nd level Warriors with longspears and studded armor, you basically treat that unit as a single 2nd level Warrior with a longspear and studded leather. Derive attack, AC, damage, saves, and anything else you need (except HP) from that concept.

Combat takes place like normal D&D combat (with some additional rules to make it feel more like a mass battle), with individual units moving around the map, engaging, and defeating foes.


Units are assumed to be composed of characters of similar class, level, and equipment such that an “average member” of the unit can be determined. They are assumed to have the following numbers:

  • Infantry: 100
  • Cavalry: 20
  • Archers: 50

If a unit is composed of fewer members than this, assess a -1 attack and damage penalty per 10% reduction (so an infantry unit with only 50 members has -5 attack and damage). This is not meant to be assessed as HP decrease during combat, but simply when the squad is composed (and might apply once casualties are assessed after the battle); it is primarily meant to avoid players splitting units to gain more attacks.

Each unit is treated as having the stats of an average member, as discussed above. Its attack, damage, AC, saves, feats, and other rules effects (except HP) are simply those of the average soldier in the unit.

The HP of a unit is equal to the number of soldiers in the unit, multiplied by level, divided by 10 (divided by 5 for cavalry to account for attacks that hit the horses). Thus, unit HP are typically equal to:

  • Infantry: 10 per level/hit die
  • Cavalry: 4 per level/hit die
  • Archers: 5 per level/hit die

You might want to increase the HP of a unit of Barbarians or other creatures with d12 hit dice by 10-20%. Similarly, if the unit uses a d6 hit die, reduce by 10-20%. Commoner levies with d4 hit dice could be reduced by 20-30% or more if desired.

Embedding “hero” characters in the unit affects morale, orders, and gives other bonuses, but does not change the core stats directly. The HP of these characters is tracked separately (i.e., they are assumed to take superficial damage while their unit is still together, but they may find themselves in normal-round scale skirmishes during the battle that deal damage normally).

Hexes, Movement, and Facing

Units can move a number of hexes per round equal to the normal number of five foot squares they can move in standard combat (i.e., the rounds and spaces are both 10 times as big).

Unlike normal movement:

  • Without turning, the unit can only move forward along its front at full speed. A unit can step backward at half speed.
  • Turning uses up movement. Each hex face rotated uses of one hex of movement (e.g., a 180 degree turn uses up 3 spaces of movement). Rotating in melee provokes an Attack of Opportunity as if moving through a threatened area.
  • A full move does not allow the target to escape melee without taking an Attack of Opportunity.
  • A “five-foot step” still escapes an Attack of Opportunity. The unit moves into any empty adjacent space and preserves its current facing, or rotates one space worth of movement toward a foe.

Units can only attack at full strength across their front. The two edges adjacent to the front impose a -1 attack penalty. The two adjacent to the back impose a -2 attack penalty. Attacks to the rear impose a -4 penalty. Conversely, an attacker gains a +1, +2, or +4 attack bonus against the target (two targets engaged across similarly disadvantageous spaces cancel out). If the attacking unit has Sneak Attack or a similar attack that relies on Flanking, attacking from the rear three sides of the target also counts as Flanking (in addition to catching the unit between you and an ally).


Each unit has a Morale save. This score is equal to the unit’s Will save plus the Charisma bonus of its leader (use the average character’s score if no named and statted leader is embedded). Units gain a +2 bonus to Morale rolls if they have won a similar battle before (i.e., veteran units). It also receives a bonus from any effects that protect against Fear.

Compare total number of units on each side of the battle, and assess a +1 circumstance bonus to Morale per extra unit if this unit’s side has more, and a -1 circumstance penalty per extra unit if this unit’s side has less (e.g., a battle between Army A with 10 units and Army B with 5 units would result in a +5 bonus to Army A’s Morale and a -5 penalty to Army B’s). This bonus or penalty should be reassessed throughout the battle as units are defeated.

Units must make a Morale save whenever bad things happen to see if the unit breaks:

  • DC 5: The unit takes damage the first time
  • DC 10: The unit is attacked from behind
  • DC 10: The unit is given an order to attack an apparently superior unit (without any other units to assist)
  • DC 15: The unit is reduced to half HP or less
  • DC 10: A nearby and visible other allied unit Retreats
  • DC 15: A nearby and visible other allied unit Breaks
  • DC 20: A nearby and visible other allied unit is Defeated

If the unit fails the Morale save, it Retreats (as per the order, next week). If it fails the save by 5 or more, it Breaks (see next week).

(To be Continued next week)